The Wonder Years

The Greatest Generation

Written by: TL on 04/06/2013 22:26:49

In a sense it's weird that The Wonder Years have somehow become a band to inspire trembling anticipation - a band that is leading the charge for pop-punk of this new, young decade. It's not exactly because their musical elements can't be confused with those employed by loads of other similar bands, and it certainly isn't because frontman Dan 'Soupy' Campbell has the most sterling singing voice in the genre. And still, not only did we give 2011's "Suburbia, I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing" the rare grade of 9, but more than one staff member also still consider it the single best record of 2011.

With that in mind, can you understand if we've approached its recent follow-up "The Greatest Generation" with some trepidation?

As "The Greatest Generation" continues to showcase however, the band has some shining qualities that place them heads and shoulders above all imitators and contemporaries. They are the extreme believeability of Campbell's vocal performance, the extremely catchy melodies and dynamics founded beneath him by his bandmates and finally, the clarity, relatability and vividness of his lyricism. Channeling his influences from authours like Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsberg into highly specific sceneries and situations, 'Soupy' manages, for song upon song, to conjure up stories about an existentially troubled, young Philadelpian, that somehow resonate with both tweens and teens, not only from all corners of America, but from all corners of the English speaking music scene in general.

"The Greatest Generation" is as much evidence of this as the two records that came before it, after which it is supposed to form the end of a trilogy about American Suburbia. Still I think fans will believe The Wonder Years singing about something else than Philadelphia when they hear it and not before - With most probably being more occcupied with determining whether "The Greatest Generation" is a worthy follow-up to "Suburbia, I've Given You All..." or not.

At a glance, the two albums - that were both produced by Steve Evetts - are very much alike. I detect a slight difference in the band's tone having gotten a little richer, reminding me occasionally of some of Jimmy Eat World or Texas Is The Reason's sparkling, emo-rock grandeaur, in some of the more mid-paced chord-cascades. Still, I think what most will recognise is that while it is technically a sort of concept album, "The Greatest Generations"' main flaw is perhaps that it sounds less like it than "Suburbia, I've Given You All..". With most of the new songs being more focused and structured, it at times lacks the variety that made "Suburbia.." feel like a carefully sequenced effort, complete with a dramatic curve that bid you listen to it in full.

If that inevitably makes it a slightly inferior release however, it is disappearingly minorly so if you ask me, because you will still be hard at work tracking down albums that have more touching and captivating hooklines than this one - ones that seize your intention and makes you want bounce around, listening to the album on repeat until every word is under your skin. It speaks volumes that I could easily quote from the first eight tracks, but instead I'll limit myself to pointing out hooks in moody opener "There, There" or personal favourite "The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves" that respectively repeat "I'm sorry I don't laugh at the right times" and "I came here looking for a fight!" - Both of those are bound to lodge themselves in your head almost immediately, as is the powerful surge of "The Devil In My Bloodstream" going "I bed I'd be a fuckin' coward! I bed I'd never have the guts for war!"

What's more important than me spoiling the good moments of this record for you however, is to notice that out of the thirteen tracks on offer, I only consider "Am American Religion (FSF)" and "Cul-de-sac" to be a bit below par, and in perfect fairness, both are the type of songs that could have been highlights on in their own right on a lesser record. Other than that, "The Greatest Generation" really has little else to offer in the drawbacks department.

I guess in theory, you could criticise the band for the self-referencing that goes on in "The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves" and closer "I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral", or the lack of variety the band must represent, considering that the latter can recall almost every hook from the preceding album without feeling disconnected melodically. But I think when you actually listen to the record, you can't possibly miss the point by such a large margin, because "The Greatest Generation" is so clearly another case of The Wonder Years coming up with a collection of songs that almost all strike you as being relevant on a personal level. So while I'm sure plenty of fans will get caught up in discussing whether this is better or worse than "Suburbia..", my verdict is that it doesn't matter when considered next to the fact that to me it's the most engaging record of the year so far.


Download: The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves; The Devil In My Bloodstream; Passing Through A Screen Door
For The Fans Of: Living With Lions, Man Overboard, Set Your Goals, Four Year Strong

Release Date 14.05.2013
Hopeless Records

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